Sending holiday hope to troops overseas

Published 12/02 2012 05:51PM

Updated 12/03 2012 09:55AM

URBANA -- Volunteers are making the holidays brighter for soldiers who are far from home.

Friends and family gathered around Christmas tables, preparing a feast for people who won't be here on December 25.

"People come out and do this because they want to do something for them and they really do have support back home," said Lori Stewart, who organized the event.

It's part of a project called Toys for Troops. Now in its sixth season, volunteers are packing and sending 62 boxes.

"Some of these people have been over there for quite a long time and they're missing a lot of holidays," said Mallory Clark, who is training to be in the army. She said this is what she would want if she was in their shoes.

"Just something to remind them of home and calm their nerves during the holidays and let them know that we're thinking about them and they're not alone," said Clark.

"We just want them to have a good holiday and not miss out. We are packing them as absolutely full as we can," said Shannon Foreman, who lives in Urbana. "We're rearranging them to jam as much as we can into each box so that everybody gets a lot of great stuff for Christmas."

The volunteers stuffed the boxes like stockings, full of things soldiers may need plus other toys and treats just for fun.

"We searched the world for sweet tea candy one year because someone was hungry for it and couldn't find it," said Stewart.

But more than what you can see inside, there's a message of hope for the soldiers. That's knowing people are pulling for them on the other side of the world.

"If peace puts me out of business, I'm fine with that," said Stewart. "Otherwise, as long as they need help, we'll be here."

Stewart said she was amazed by the turnout. She said her son, who is in the service, plans to be home on Christmas Day this year.

Toys for Troops is a year-round project. To find out how you can help out, click on the links below.

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